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  • Writer's pictureDr Julien Drouart

GDR Museum: Experience history!

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

The GDR Museum brings to life the objects of a vanished everyday life.
The uniform of a member of the young pioneers

The GDR Museum is an essential part of the everyday culture of the former East Germany. Despite dubious economic imperatives, the enterprise is saving thousands of objects from a country that has now disappeared.

The GDR Museum is worth a visit.

If the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification led to the collapse of the GDR's political system and economic model, this was followed by the destruction of a society with codes, norms and values that were then common to nearly 14 million East Germans. So many everyday objects that have simply disappeared since 1990 and which, at the time, formed the basis of identity for people born in a country that no longer exists.

Remembering in order to move forward together, in the name of national reconciliation. However, this is also dependent on the tourist industry following a seminal event, namely the worldwide release in 2003 of a film that would change the balance of power: Good Bye, Lenin.

Nevertheless, the GDR Museum does not present itself as a spokesperson for nostalgia and questions the relationship of Germans to the German-Soviet past. Resolutely interactive and open to the public, the institution is now one of the most popular attractions in Berlin. Despite the obvious economic stakes, and perhaps in spite of itself, the company has also taken on the mission of preserving, as best it can, the cultural elements of a vanished country.

Discovery and fun

"Experience history" is the motto of the museum. Here, visitors are given the opportunity to discover and touch the objects that were part of everyday life in the GDR.

The exhibition is structured around three main themes, which are quite distinct: everyday life, life in society and the political and economic system. There are many curiosities and period objects and clothing. The reconstruction of a typical flat from the late 1980s and the presence of a driving module in a Trabant car provide the opportunity for playful activities to delight the youngest visitors and to cultivate a spirit of relaxation. Political repression and the society of lack of consumer goods are not taboo and are explicitly addressed in order to present the different facets of society.

The experience is pleasant but limited, as the museum is relatively small. The lack of a guiding thread is all the more annoying as the crowd of too many visitors piles up and presses the first ones towards the exit.

Contrasting memory and profit

The GDR Museum has a refreshing concept that combines fun, experimentation and documentation. Depending on one's character and outlook, interest can vary greatly, especially as the information sheets are quite general. Form takes precedence over content here, which in itself is not a fault if the content of the exhibition was exhaustive.

Therefore, hiring a professional guide is a real added value. However, the high price of guided tours automatically becomes an obstacle. There is, however, a state museum in Berlin dedicated to the former East Germany. It is the Museum of Everyday Life in the GDR, located in the Kulturbrauerei. Admission is free and audio guides are available.

Reasons to go

  • Everyday life in the GDR seen in a different light than that of repression

  • An attractive educational approach

Reasons to avoid

  • It is best to choose the day and time of your visit carefully to avoid the crowds

  • A rather disappointing quality/price ratio

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